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Council could have power to stop people converting homes into holiday properties

Conwy County Council

CONWY’S cabinet has backed a new Welsh Government power that would give the council the ability to stop people converting homes into holiday properties. At a meeting this week, Conwy ’s cabinet discussed ‘article four’, a Welsh Government direction that means buyers would need planning permission to use a home as a second home or holiday let.

The power is intended to stop Welsh communities being reduced to holiday home villages owned by people living away by raising house prices to unobtainable levels for locals. Consequently, Conwy’s cabinet debated whether the new power should be accepted as policy to be included in the council’s next replacement local development plan.

Conwy’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and councillors accepted it was a controversial issue. The report said an acceptable 10-20% threshold of holiday homes in a community had been suggested.

Whilst Conwy has no areas at 15% or above, Llanddoged and Maenan, Pentrefoelas, Bro Garmon, Caerhun, and Trefriw had proportions above 10%. The cabinet had several options, including doing nothing, but voted in favour of the officers’ recommendation of adopting the new policy.

Leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey explained. “To keep it really simple, if I tomorrow decided to turn my house into a second home or holiday home, I could do so,” he said. “Clearly in some areas that’s not an issue, but we do have a housing crisis, and we know in some areas there is a really high percentage of second homes.

“So this is a planning restriction that prevents people from doing that, but that is quite a big, serious step to take. It has to be legally challenged. It removes the right for me to sell my house to whoever I want, if they want to turn it into a second home. So it is quite a controversial item.

“I don’t think it is a silver bullet to solve our housing crisis, but this is part of a suite of things we can do in areas where there are concerns.” He added: “A lot of work has been done in Gwynedd to progress this, but it definitely isn’t straightforward, and this is definitely something that would require a lot more debate, a lot more consideration, and I would suggest a lot more data on the impact and the effect and the statistics. All we are asking is for this being included as part of our future replacement local development plan.”

Cllr McCoubrey then said it was something Conwy could add to its armoury and the conversation whether to ‘do it or not do it’ could be left for another day. Cllr Julie Fallon said Conwy could look at other local authorities and the impact article four was having in those counties in terms of housing.

She said: “Obviously we don’t want to discourage people from buying a second home here, but equally we need to make sure that, as those things move through, it doesn’t increase the cost for any locals trying to buy properties. So this is good. It means we are not excluding it altogether, but we are keeping it there as an option that, should we need it moving forward, that opportunity is there. It is keeping it in our armoury so that, especially in specific areas, where we have issues, we could look at this as an option.”

Cllr Aaron Wynne added: “Something as complex as a housing crisis isn’t going to be solved in one change in policy, but I do agree that we need to agree on this today. It provides an opportunity to look at the policy and how such a policy would work in Conwy. Any policy needs to be watertight and particularly in planning terms, and I think we are going around this in the right way.”

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Cllr McCoubrey proposed cabinet backed the recommendation. This was seconded by Cllr Fallon, and cabinet voted unanimously in favour of the report.

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